Edge Executive Insight – Niall Dalton, CEO, Seaplane IO- Edge StartUp of the Year FINALIST
In the lead up to Edge Computing World, we’re taking some time to speak to key Executives from the leading companies. Today we’re talking with Niall Dalton, CEOof Seaplane IO
Tell us a bit about yourself – what led you to get involved in the edge computing market and Seaplane IO
I describe myself as a systems technologist because I’ve done a bit of everything. I’ve been an architect on large scale ARM server clusters, I’ve worked on hypervisors and binary translators, I’ve built cloud-scale storage systems — my career has been up and down the stack from infrastructure to app development. I’m very technology agnostic, so I’d say the uniting theme of all my previous work has been “accessibility.” Taking these incredible, complex systems and applications and making them more productive and consumable for the people who need to use and maintain them.
With that in mind, my cofounders and I didn’t set out to build Seaplane. We played with a bunch of different concepts all on the assumption that, once we had the right problem to solve, we’d be the ones consuming all this great cloud and edge capacity. What I wasn’t expecting was all the complexity as we bore those concepts out. You can get started building applications easily enough, but as you introduce more zones, more regions, more providers, then suddenly it becomes so complicated your focus necessarily has to shift away from building your applications and toward managing this snarl of infrastructure and services. So many conversations wrapped back to “that sounds great, but how would we manage and scale it?”
As we talked with more and more application-level developers we realized that we were not unique, and everyone was grappling with the same set of infrastructure challenges and frustrations. Cloud and edge make everything possible, but they don’t make anything particularly easy. That is the real heart of Seaplane. We stepped back and went “what would it take to allow most people, most application developers, to concentrate on building their application and have something else do the heavy lifting behind the scenes?”
What is it you & your company are uniquely bringing to the edge market?
What we’re trying to do is make edge an integral and consumable part of any standard deployment. With Seaplane, edge deployments and cloud deployments are one and the same; part of a seamless, managed continuum. Inside this continuum we actively autoscale sensing user traffic (CDN-style) and spinning up compute, data and network resources to meet demand. As traffic shifts away, we scale down, offering serverless efficiency with no pre-provisioning, active management, or manual intervention required.
By default, deploying across multi-cloud and edge in a single platform is as simple as registering containerized workloads onto Seaplane. We provide config and API hooks to translate business requirements into responsive infrastructure configuration. Developers can indicate what they need without having to understand the nuts-and-bolts of how to best configure edge or cloud resources to achieve it. Since we can also leverage the full spectrum of cloud resources, we don’t need to strongly restrict the types of application that can be deployed, further lowering the barrier for entry. We believe cloud-native application deployment should be as simple and dynamically efficient as a CDN is for content.
We’re not trying to bring everyone to edge, we’re trying to bring edge to everyone by meeting them where they are.
Tell us more about the company, what’s your advantages compared to others on the market, who is involved, and what are your major milestones so far?
There’s a plethora of edge-specific tooling already on the market, and so much of it is great! The entire serverless ecosystem is a testament to the utility of edge, and I’m of the opinion that if you can build your application on a serverless framework then you probably should. But the operative word here is “can” and a huge number of applications just can’t be serverless in the traditional sense.
If your application is already containerized, if you need data locality, if you’re worried about vendor lock-in, if you have high request throughput, or any other number of concerns then you can’t access the things that make serverless great. Seaplane brings all the benefits of serverless — quick start, scalability, pay-what-you-use, local deployments — all to standard containerized applications. Developers deploy once and let Seaplane handle the rest.
“Edge” feels very unapproachable for the average application-level developer when your options are to rewrite your entire application, bolt on edge functionality, or abandon cloud resources entirely. We don’t require our users to change their workflow or rewrite their code. Our users can still get the cloud services they love with the cloud resources they need, but now they also have access to edge and global bare metal. We’re not disrupting the market so much as bringing benefits we already know developers want to an underserved piece of the market.
If your application is too complex, or if it’s containerized, or if it requires cloud resources, then you just can’t access the things that make serverless great. Seaplane brings all the benefits of serverless — the scalability, the pay-what-you-use model, the deployments close to the user — all to containerized applications. Developers deploy once and let Seaplane handle the rest. You don’t have to actively do or manage anything. The differentiation really comes down to simplicity and accessibility.
How do you see the edge market developing over the next few years?
I see it as a bit cyclical. We saw, in the transition to cloud, a centralization of resources. Instead of every company having a small server room we now have fewer, larger data centers everyone uses collectively. There was this big pull inward, and now we’re starting to see more pushing back outward. Computing is becoming more distributed, more localized to individual users. This is a good thing — it means more fault tolerance, more efficient systems, less expense for businesses, and less latency for end users regardless of where they are in the world.
I see edge as the bridge between the present reality of a little compute happening at the edge via CDNs, to entire applications being delivered, data and all, to end users everywhere. Imagine if every cloud native application performed as well as a website served via CDN. It’s a natural evolution, and the possibilities are really exciting.
What are the main trends you see about integrating edge computing into different verticals?
There are some obvious ones, mostly in industries that need really low latencies like gaming and video delivery, but the thing that surprised me was the interest in edge not for end user performance, but for internal user performance. Remote work is more common than ever, and as a result global teams are more common than ever. Being able to accommodate a fully distributed workforce is really critical both for your team’s efficiency and for their happiness.
When you look around at some of the biggest industry trends of the last ten years it’s actually very obvious why we’re seeing more emphasis on developer tooling and the developer experience. DevOps as a discipline arose to make engineering teams more efficient. Platform engineering is moving to replace DevOps because it promises yet more efficiency and, critically, a better developer experience. Minimizing the latencies of these increasingly robust internal systems is the logical next step.